Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which has been extensively used in building materials globally. Asbestos was most widely used in Australia between the 1940’s and 1980’s. Asbestos is versatile, fire resistant and is an effective insulator, which lead to it having over 3000 world wide applications. It is estimated that one-third of the homes in Australia contain asbestos products.
Asbestos is a hazardous material, due to the health risks associated. Asbestos is carcinogenic and can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. For this reason, asbestos was completely banned in the production of building materials in Australia by 2003. This includes all the three main types of asbestos (Chrysotile, Amosite & Crocilidite).
Asbestos is divided into two categories which present different levels of risk. Friable asbestos is defined as being easily pulverised and has a heightened potential to become airborne when disturbed. Non-friable asbestos fibres are bonded to a substrate and are not as easily disturbed.
To determine whether a product contains asbestos, a sample needs to be analysed by a NATA accredited laboratory. Visual inspection is not sufficient to determine whether building materials contain asbestos.
An asbestos audit can be conducted on a property to identify asbestos-containing materials. Employers have a duty of care to document and implement an asbestos management plan if the property contains asbestos products. It is a requirement under the regulations that all properties have an asbestos register which can be obtained through conducting an asbestos audit. Employers are required to review the asbestos register at least every five years. Safety Systems uses an appropriately accredited NATA laboratory to determine whether asbestos is present. Safety Systems provides asbestos reports which aids employers in meeting their legislative requirements and understanding the risks at their workplace.
Division 5 Audits
Division 5 of the WHS/OH&S Regulations, requires people with management control to identify all asbestos-containing materials present in a workplace. To achieve compliance, a competent person should be engaged to prepare an asbestos register as part of an asbestos audit. Division 5 asbestos audits are usually non-invasive and will not include cavities or area where destruction is required to complete the audit.
Division 6 Audits
Division 6 of the WHS/OH&S Regulations, requires a person with management control to review the asbestos register before any demolition or refurbishment work is conducted. A division 6 audit is usually invasive and destructive in areas where it is relevant to complete the audit e.g. removal of splashback tiles to verify backing materials.
Hazardous Materials Audits
A hazardous materials audit includes.
- Asbestos audit in accordance with Part 4.4 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.
- Synthetic Mineral Fibres (SMF) audit in accordance with the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s National Standard for Synthetic Mineral Fibres [1004(1990)].
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) audit using the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council’s (ANZECC) publication Identification of PCB-Containing Capacitors 1997. o Lead in Paint identification in accordance with the National Standard for the Control of Inorganic
- Lead at Work [1012(1994)]. o Biological Hazards include visual identification of hazards such as fecal contamination, vermin, mold etc.